Page 3 of 4
"The train used to be a good way to get out of town fast, and now there really isn't a way to get out of town fast. One idea was a get-out-of-town ride. You could go to Union Station and get on a mock train. Local artists could create passing scenery, and you could have a conductor get on the intercom and say all the really great places you wish you were going to: Next stop Austin, Madison, Portland, with stops in Paris and Tokyo. Of course we realized later that would be really depressing because then you'd have to make a ride back to Kansas City."
Huggins' and Brinkerhoff's other ideas were admittedly silly, and some tended toward desperation. "Like a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum because those are pretty cool -- they have things like a guy with a horn coming out of his head. Maybe if you combined that and Dogpatch USA and Bagnell Dam kind of ballyhoo with bumper cars and ski ball," Huggins says after a brainstorming session with Brinkerhoff. Hey, if it works at the Lake of the Ozarks, it's worth thinking about here.
And another thing, Huggins says, "There's that Extreme Screen in there -- is that part making any money? I could think of cooler things to put in there that wouldn't make money, either, but they'd be a lot more interesting than movies about frogs narrated by Glenn Close. It would be a backhand tribute to the dirty movie theater that used to be in Union Station. There was a little raincoat-crowd theater in there called the Astro. I say put that stuff on the Extreme Screen."
The station's prospects are sounding livelier all the time. To encourage more brainstorming efforts, we demand that Star Publisher Brisbane be replaced by another media figure, the Pitch's Night Ranger, Jen Chen.
"Sure," she says when I stop her in the hallway and ask if she'd be willing to serve. "I think there should be more bars there. More 3 a.m. bars because there's nothing to draw people to it."
She'd be a great replacement for Brisbane, Chen says, "Because I think I can drink him under the table. A threat to Art Brisbane: You're going down."
OK, Jen's digressing a bit. But I'm her boss, and I'm confident of her ability to stay on task when it's necessary.
We also know that every powerful organization in town needs a real-estate developer, so we nominate artist David Ford, who owns hot properties at 18th Street and Wyandotte. Ford says he prefers to be called a "microdeveloper," but whatever. He's a landlord now, having created the hippest block in the Crossroads District: Local Harvest grocery store, Blooming Lotus Soap Manufacturing Company, the Lovely Skateshop, the Spool boutique clothing store, Second Honeymoon Vintage Clothing, Y.J.'s Snack Bar and arty underwear store Birdies. "We have 9 businesses and 17 employees," Ford boasts.
"I am so willing to serve," he says of his nomination. "You could move a different monumental sculpture into that atrium every month."
When you talk to people outside of the current reality, you actually start to feel hopeful about the possibilities of saving the restored station. But it'll be a long, hard slog to restore good faith.
That becomes obvious when we call John McDonald, the founder of Boulevard Brewing Company. A lot of current Union Station board members still need to be replaced, and we'll consider nominations from readers all summer, but we thought McDonald would be a good candidate just because of the nature of his product. What he tells us, though, stops us in our tracks.